Sjogren Tries to Carve Out, Keep Larger Role

Posted on January 14, 2013 by Mike Vogel

After signing a two-year deal with the Capitals as a free agent on June 1, 2011, center Mattias Sjogren got his first taste of North American pro hockey with Hershey last fall. Sjogren got into 19 games with the Bears, totaling two goals and five points. Late last autumn, Sjogren elected to return to his native Sweden to play for Farjestads in the Swedish Elite League. He amassed three goals and nine points in 28 games there. Once his season in the SEL had ended, Sjogren returned to the states and was one of Washington’s “black aces” during the Capitals’ 2012 Stanley Cup playoff run. Sjogren is back in Hershey this season, and he has carved out a larger role for himself in the early going. The 24-year-old is centering a checking line with Garrett Mitchell and Boyd Kane, and Sjogren is also seeing prime penalty-killing time and playing on the team’s second power-play unit. He also finds himself tasked with a lot of the key face-off chores. Sjogren relishes the larger role and the trust of the coaching staff, but he knows he’ll need to perform to maintain that trust and that role. “That is what I want,” he says when asked about his current responsibilities. “But I have to be better. I had too many key face-offs I lost. I have to be better all over.” Sjogren believes his size (he’s 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds) is an asset in the face-off circle. “In Sweden, you can’t kick the puck,” he says. “You have to just use your sticks. It’s a little bit of an adjustment. But I think it’s better for me to come over here because I’m a little bit bigger compared to the other guys I play against. I think it’s a little bit easier for me to do face-offs here than back home.” Sjogren scored the go-ahead third-period goal in Saturday’s 8-7 loss to Rochester, and narrowly missed netting another on a shorthanded breakaway in Sunday’s game against Binghamton. Offense has never been his calling card; the Bears will be happy if Sjogren can effectively man the middle of the checking line, kill some penalties and kick in a few goals here and there. He is generally stationed down near the crease when he does get power play time, so that could lead to a bit of an uptick in offense. The Bears practice a bit of a unique power-play alignment, one that has produced five extra-man tallies (in 20 tries, 25%) in four games and has led to consistent attack zone pressure and scoring chances. “There are [chances],” notes Sjogren, “especially when you play against a team that is a little bit passive. It’s easier to get the puck up to [the point], or just down and across right over to Tomas [Kundratek]. But when they get some pressure on us we have to be a little quicker and make good decisions. I think it’s a good set-up and we should find a lot of opportunities to score.” Hershey’s season started somewhat strangely. After four pre-season games in a span of five nights, the Bears played one game – their season opener at Syracuse – in the next 11 nights. Then they played three games in three nights last weekend, and will do so again this weekend. “It was a long week before the first game,” says Sjogren. “It felt like you had a lot of energy going into that game. Then we played the first game; a lot of intensity, a tough rink to play in and a tough team. “Then this week came and we had three games in three days. You don’t have that energy you want the last game. But you get used to it. And now it’s easier to get used to this weekend, and other three games in three days.” Did Sjogren ever play three in three back home in Sweden? “Never,” he laughs. “We didn’t usually even play two games [in a row]. “I think it’s harder mentally. The first time I heard about it I was shocked that they played three games in three days. But I think it’s just mental. When you’ve done it a couple of times, you get used to it and you know how to prepare and to be prepared for those weekends.”

next up:

DiSalvatore is Epitome of Consistency

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If you’re looking for consistency, it’s hard to improve upon Hershey Bears right wing Jon DiSalvatore. Now in the midst of his 10th season in the AHL, the 31-year-old DiSalvatore has scored at least 20 goals in each of his first nine seasons in the circuit. He has scored between 20 and 28 goals in

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